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Kimberly Brennan: Rising to top in a male-dominated industry NJBIZ 40 Under 40: Ten years later

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Kimberly Brennan
Kimberly Brennan

When Kimberly Brennan was honored with NJBIZ’s 40 Under 40 award in 2008, she was working as the New Jersey managing director for Cushman & Wakefield and responsible for three offices. But even then she had her eye on the C-suite.

“I fell in love with the field and I wanted to climb the corporate real estate ladder,” Brennan said. “I always had it in my mind that I wanted a career.”

She accomplished her goal when she was hired in 2015 to become Colliers International’s chief operating officer for the tristate New York/New Jersey/Connecticut region, responsible for developing business strategy, recruiting brokers, conducting sales training and managing overall operations.

In these highly competitive Northeast markets, there is a tremendous pressure on sale executives to perform. And in the past three years, Brennan’s territory has seen its revenue double.

Brennan remains bullish on the New Jersey commercial real estate market. On the industrial side, she noted, there are competitive lease rates combined with strong tenant demand. On the office side, Brennan sees optimistic signs as well. 

“People have talked about the office market being stale, but I think it is has had positive movement in the last few months,” she said, pointing to large blue-chip companies such as Teva Pharmaceuticals moving its headquarters here and Ralph Lauren and Integra LifeSciences Corp. remaining committed to the state.

Brennan sees her greatest professional rewards not only in developing new initiatives and growing the business but also helping to facilitate the success of her brokers.

“There is nothing more rewarding than having influence over someone’s career,” Brennan said. “And that you had a hand in developing someone from a junior level right up the corporate ladder.”

It is through her mentor, Joe Harbert, president of Colliers’ Eastern Region office, she learned the importance of understanding the challenges brokers in the field have that has helped her to manage her team more effectively.

“One lesson I learned from him is that brokers matter,” she said. “It is the sales people out there taking the risk every single day. You need to understand them and understand the challenges they face.”

And when it comes to leading brokers, Brennan credits Harbert for teaching her how to approach decisions.

“I learned to make decisions that were fair, were well thought out and quick,” said Brennan.


Because CRE has traditionally been a male-dominated field, Brennan has worked to help bring fellow women along.

“I personally like to mentor women,” she said. “We don’t have enough women in this industry.”

Brennan sits on the advisory board for Colliers Women’s Diversity Program, which, according to the company, was “developed by Colliers’ senior female executives to provide mentorship, networking opportunities and professional development to help women grow their commercial real estate careers and leadership skills.”

In addition, she has served as director of programming and memberships at Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network, another organization aimed at aiding female real estate professionals.

With professional and family responsibilities — Brennan is mother to two middle school-aged children — time management skills are vital, she explained.

“I don’t have time to procrastinate. I work through my problems when they present themselves,” Brennan said, adding she abides by certain rules such as replying to emails and phone calls within 24 hours.

Brennan knows CRE is driven by developing relationships, and so she still believes strongly in networking.

“I think there is something hugely important to talking to people in person,” said Brennan. “Emails and phone calls work fine, but you still need to have a personal connection.”

She also serves on various boards. She sits on the board of trustees for the commercial real estate development association NAIOP; is a co-chair of the organization’s Education Program Committee; and serves on the board as vice president of associate affairs. She also serves on the Rutgers Advisory Board.

Brennan said she would like to teach real estate classes at one of the Rutgers campuses and continue mentoring up-and-coming junior executives.

“One lesson I learned from [my mentor Joe Harbert] is that brokers matter. It is the sales people out there taking the risk every single day. You need to understand them and understand the challenges they face.”

- Kimberly Brennan, Colliers International

And even as she has risen to the top of her field, she would like to continue taking real estate classes and achieve more certifications herself.

“I always love to learn,” she said.

Brennan has fond memories of being part of NJBIZ’s 40 Under 40 program.

“It was an excellent experience for me,” she said. “It is such a great feature because it really recognizes people who are up-and-coming in their careers. The networking opportunity for that was great. To this day, I still have my 40 Under 40 plaque in my office.”

That experience, she added, taught her a lot about self-promotion.

“People should not be afraid to talk about their accomplishments,” Brennan said. “People recognize you are a hard worker but they don’t recognize what you do unless you build your brand.”

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